REVIEW: Lauren Bush and Ian Shaw at Pizza Pheasantry (2017 EFG LJF)

Lauren Bush and Ian Shaw
Photo credit: Kat Pfeiffer

Lauren Bush/ Liam Dunachie and Ian Shaw 
(Pizza Pheasantry, 14 November 2017. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

"The World Needs More Canada" was the strap-line for the #Canada150 celebrations this summer. I remember seeing the slogan emblazoned on merchandise - beach towels,  thermos mugs, that kind of thing. Lauren Bush's first outing of a delightful new show gave us a clue as to what "More Canada" might actually look like.

This was a fascinating and well-researched show. And yet it was not the kind of dry research that ends up as footnotes or risk registers, quite the opposite. Lauren Bush - who is an LJN contributor -  had unearthed such surreal gems as Montreal-born Alex Kramer's 1946 surreally gallinaceous hit for Louis Jordan Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens, and Alan Mills' bleakly, existentially comic Saskatchewan . Try the lyric: "Why we stay here no-one knows...We sit and gaze across the plains...".

Lauren Bush has an easy on-stage manner and presence and carries off such novelty songs with aplomb, and wins over the audience with ease. But that is just a beginning and the main purpose of this review must be to underline her versatility and range. For me real the real surprise came with the Gino Vanelli 1978 song I Just Wanna Stop, in which Bush left the jazz and scatting and novelty singing way behind, and seemed to walk effortlessly into the role of an incredibly persuasive and powerully voiced pop/soul singer.

Canada also means Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot, and this is where Ian Shaw's contribution came into its own. But Shaw is also a supporter of Lauren Bush - he produced her debut album - and believes in her. When she shone in a quietly intense, deeply thoughtful and communicative Both Sides Now, she justified that belief - and more.

The hushed tones of Both Sides Now were also a highly effective less-is-more moment for pianist Liam Dunachie, and the range of material that was covered in this programme is also a tribute to his stylistic adaptability. He is an astonishingly versatile musician.

This gig had a complex genesis. Ian Shaw's presence was embargoed from all publicity. Lauren Bush had been prevented from entering the UK a couple of weeks ago because of visa problems and was turned back to Italy after a twelve-hour ordeal at immigration. But all's well that ends well, and a deeply-felt duet version of Oscar Peterson's Hymn To Freedom ended the programme on a strong, confident, impassioned note.

I hope this show has more airings. It was just right for the Pheasantry but these are strong performers and it could easily work just as well in a bigger venue.

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